One of the events of the early part of this year was the capture of the Dutch island of Cura?oa, by a squadron under Captain Brisbane; but by far the most prominent naval transaction of the year was the seizure of the Danish fleet off Copenhagena proceeding which occasioned severe censures on Britain by Buonaparte and the Continental nations under his domination. The Opposition at home were equally violent in the outcry against this act, as in open violation of the laws of nations, Denmark then being nominally at peace with us. But, though nominally at peace, Denmark was at heart greatly embittered against us by our bombardment of its capital in 1801, and it was quite disposed to fall in with and obey the views of Napoleon, who was now master of all Germany, at peace with Russia through the Treaty of Tilsit, and, therefore, able any day to overrun Denmark. Buonaparte was enforcing his system of the exclusion of Britain from all the ports of the Continent, and it was inevitable that he would compel Denmark to comply with this system. But there was another matter. Denmark had a considerable fleet and admirable seamen, and he might employ the fleet greatly to our damage, probably in endeavouring to realise his long-cherished scheme of the invasion of England; at the least, in interrupting her commerce and capturing her merchantmen. The British Ministers were privately informed that Buonaparte intended to make himself master of this fleet, and they knew that there were private articles in the Treaty of Tilsit between Russia and France, by which he contemplated great changes in the North, in which Denmark was believed to be involved. Upon these grounds alone the British Government was justified, by the clearest expressions of international law, in taking time by the forelock, and possessing themselves of the fleet to be turned against them; not to appropriate it, but to hold it in pledge till peace. Grotius is decisive on this point:"I may, without considering whether it is manifest or not, take possession of that which belongs to another man, if I have reason to apprehend any evil to myself from his holding it. I cannot make myself master or proprietor of it, the property having nothing to do with the end which I propose; but I can keep possession of the thing seized till my safety be sufficiently provided for." This view would fully have justified the British Government, had nothing further ever become known. But subsequent research in the Foreign Office of France has placed these matters in their true light. The Treaty of Tilsit contains secret articles by which Alexander was permitted by Napoleon to appropriate Finland, and Napoleon was authorised by Alexander[540] to enter Denmark, and take possession of the Danish fleet, to employ against us at sea. These secret articles were revealed to the British Government. No man at this time was so indignant as Alexander of Russia at our thus assailing a power not actually at war. He issued a manifesto against Britain, denouncing the transaction as one which, for infamy, had no parallel in history, he himself being in the act of doing the same thing on a far larger scale, and without that sufficient cause which Britain could show, and without any intention of making restitution. We only seized a fleet that was on the point of being used against us, and which was to be returned at the end of the war; the horrified Czar invaded Sweden, while at peace, and, without any declaration of war, usurped a whole countryFinland, larger than Great Britain. Russia, in fact, had brought Denmark into this destructive dilemma by its insidious policy; but, having seized Finland, in five years more it committed a still greater robbery on Denmark than it had done on Sweden, by contracting with Bernadotte to wrest Norway from Denmark, and give it to Sweden. During these transactions there was naturally an earnestly-inquiring eye kept open towards Hanover, whence the king appeared in no hurry to issue forth and assume the throne of these three[26] fair kingdoms. The coolness with which George of Hanover appeared to contemplate the splendid prize which had fallen to him, seemed to the English little less than unnatural. Thrones and crowns are generally seized upon with avidity; but the new king seemed to feel more regret in quitting his petty Electorate than eagerness to enter on his splendid kingdom. But George was a man of phlegmatic disposition, and of the most exact habits, and went through his duties like an automaton or a piece of machinery. He took, therefore, much time in settling his affairs in Hanover before he turned his face towards England, and it was not till the 18th of September, or nearly seven weeks after the decease of the late queen, that he landed at Greenwich with his son George. "His views and affections were," as Lord Chesterfield properly observed, "singly confined to the narrow compass of his Electorate. England was too big for him." [See larger version]

Immediately on the rising of Parliament O'Connell published a violent attack in the form of a letter to Lord Duncannon. This was taken up by Lord Brougham in the course of an oratorical tour which he was making through Scotland, and a mutual exchange of compliments ensued. Unfortunately the Chancellor's eccentricity did not stop there. Earl Grey was not permitted to retire into private life without some popular recognition of his great public services. On the 15th of September a grand banquet was given in Edinburgh in honour of this illustrious statesman. "Probably," says a contemporary chronicle, "no Minister in the zenith of his power ever before received so gratifying a tribute of national respect as was paid on this occasion to one who had not only retired from office, but retired from it for ever. The popular enthusiasm, both in the capital and other parts of Scotland, was extreme, which the noble earl sensibly felt, and gratefully acknowledged as among the proudest circumstances of his life. The dinner took place in a large pavilion, erected for the occasion in the area of the High School, and was provided for upwards of 1,500 persons, more than 600 having been admitted after the removal of the cloth. The principal speakers were Earl Grey, the Lord Chancellor, and the Earl of Durham. Earl Grey and the Lord Chancellor, in their speeches, said they considered that the Reform in Parliament afforded the means by which all useful improvements might be obtained without violence. Both advocated a deliberate and careful, but steady course of amelioration and reform, and both derided the idea of a reaction in favour of Tory principles of government. The Earl of Durham avowed his opinions in favour of the ballot and household suffrage, and declared that he should regret every hour which left ancient and recognised abuses unreformed." This involved the Lord Chancellor in a new controversy in which more personalities were exchanged. On the 7th of March the House of Commons went into committee on the establishment of the Duke of York, on account of his marriage. Fox united with Pitt in supporting the recommendation that twenty-five thousand pounds per annum should be added to the twelve thousand pounds which the duke already had; besides this the duke had a private yearly revenue of four thousand pounds, making altogether forty-one thousand a year, in addition to the bishopric of Osnaburg, in Germany, which had been conferred on the duke, though a layman and a soldier. Notwithstanding the union of Whigs and Tories on this occasion, the vote did not pass without some sharp remarks on the miserable stinginess of the King of Prussia, who only gave his daughter the paltry sum of twenty-five thousand pounds as a dowry, and stipulated that even that should be returned in case of the duke's death, though in that case his daughter was to have a permanent allowance of eight thousand pounds a year.

From Boulogne, Buonaparte proceeded to Brussels, Ostend, Antwerp, and so through Belgium, where Josephine met him, to the Rhine. Wherever he appeared, the authorities of the towns, both then and on his return through France, presented him with the most adulatory addresses. One would no longer believe it the same people who had, for[499] ten years, committed such unexampled horrors to destroy the royalty they were now again adoring. The Mayor of Arras, Robespierre's own town, put the climax to all this civic incense by declaring, in his address, that "God made Napoleon, and then rested!" It was during Lord Cornwallis's campaign in Mysore that Lord Macartney made his celebrated embassy to China, to endeavour to induce the Chinese to open their ports to trade with Britain; but his lordship succeeded in very little beyond making the Chinese and their country better known in the work written by his secretary, afterwards Sir John Barrow.